While Victor Hecker was a student in community college, he answered an ad to be a swim instructor for a chain of swim schools in the Los Angeles area called Swim Art Swim Schools. They held summer swim lessons in pools in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Covina and Long Beach.
No experience was required, which was ideal because Hecker was a basketball player, not a swimmer. According to Hecker, the swim school did a good job of training instructors. At the end of the summer, they held a competition in Hollywood. The owner allowed Hecker to be an honorary coach and although his kids didn’t win because they were newer swimmers, they did well. He said he noticed how well-coached the winning team was. “The experience tickled my interest,” he said, “I stayed with the swim school for more years, learning and improving as a coach.” He was able to buy his first swim school from his boss and eventually owned swim schools in La Habra, Whittier and Long Beach.
He was studying at Cal State Long Beach and was influenced by Kinesiology professor Herb de Vries who had written many books on swimming and fitness, as well running the Long Beach Swim Club. Hecker said de Vries was very motivating and he learned a lot from him. Hecker also attended all the AAU clinics he could with the greats sharing their knowledge like Peter Daland and Doc Councilman and Don Gambrel. “The coaches took an interest in me because I was so interested in learning and improving.”
He began to have success with a young age group of 12-13-year-olds. They traveled to swim meets in Southern California and other parts of the country. “Word got out because were getting good,” he said.
“Paul Cohee, who was the father of one of my swimmers at Lynwood Swim Club, was superintendent of the school district,” Hecker said. “At the time, I hadn’t finished my four-year degree, but Cohee told me to finish my degree and he would bring me on board to teach and coach at Lynwood High School.”
“In 1967, I went to a clinic in Washington state at the University of Washington. Mark Spitz came with his coach and I came with one of my high school swimmers, Frank Heckl, who went to Olympic Trials was recruited all over the country,” he said. “Different coaches got to give a workout and I got a lot of calls after my workout from other coaches because of the creative things I was doing.”
Frank Heckl won the 200 free at CIF in Southern California and had the National High School record, which was then broken the next day in Northern Cal by Mark Spitz. Heckl went on to swim for USC and was a seven-time Pan American Games medalist and former world record-holder in two relay events. Hecker said he had the privilege to coach Shirley Babashoff and her brother Jack at Lynwood High School. Babashoff became a world record holder and gold medalist from the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. He said his Lynwood High School swimmers were some of the best from 1970 through 1973, finishing in the top five of the country.
Before Title IX, he said there wasn’t a CIF meet for girls. He was instrumental in getting a championship meet for high school girls at the Beverly Hills pool in 1970 and received a plaque thanking him for his efforts.
In 1974, he received an offer to be the first swimming coach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was promised 13 scholarships and many of his high school swimmers followed him to UNLV. Unfortunately, the Athletic Director didn’t follow through with his many promises, and the scholarships weren’t available until his athletes gained residency. He lost many of his swimmers to University of Texas and USC and other powerhouse swim schools.
While at UNLV, Hecker began the Las Vegas Swim Club and grew the team to more than 250 swimmers. His goal was to develop swimmers at his AAU club to eventually swim at UNLV. He was told by the administration that his club team was a conflict of interest, so he decided at that time to leave UNLV as head coach and focus on the club. He soon had swimmers competing at Junior Nationals and Nationals with the best teams in the country.
While coaching, he also earned his real estate license and said the late 70s and 80s were a great time to be in real estate in Las Vegas. He retired from coaching in the 1980s to focus on his real estate business. It wasn’t until 2000 that he coached his youngest daughter who was in high school in the Las Vegas Municipal pool. Other swimmers asked him for pointers. Soon, he found himself coaching a group of adults which was the start of the Las Vegas Masters.
He is so respected that some swimmers move to Las Vegas to be in his program. Club members wear shirts with the saying, “We swim for Vic.” He said his masters has many great swimmers including former All-Americans as well as beginners. This year, the Las Vegas Masters placed third at the 2017 US Masters Spring Nationals, following The Olympic Club and San Diego Swim Masters.
Coach Vic’s philosophy is that you swim forever, not a season. He believes that swimming keeps people healthy and young. At 82-years-old, coaching keeps Victor Hecker young, active and healthy, too.
From the Las Vegas Masters website:
Coach Vic won the award for 2014 Southern Pacific Coach of the Year! Congratulations Coach Vic! You deserve it!
Coach Victor Hecker has been guiding Las Vegas Masters swim team to great successes since 2000, including our big WINS at the 2015 and 2016 SPMS Regional & SW Zone Championships.
- Named SPMS Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2014!
- Awarded the Kerry O’Brien Coaching Award in 2015
- Certified USMS Level 3 Masters Coach
- Coaching swimming in the Las Vegas area since 1974
- Former UNLV collegiate swimming coach
- Coached Olympic gold-medalists, Olympic Trials qualifiers, and world record holders
- Coached swimmers include recreational, triathletes, competitive swimmers
- Works with competitive swimmers to set goals and specializes in discerning the critical differences to success